Israel vowed on Friday to build a Jewish history museum in Hebron, just after UNESCO declared the Old City of Hebron an endangered world heritage site.
The UN cultural organization voted on Friday to put Hebron’s Old City in the occupied West Bank on its list of world heritage sites in danger. The vote, held in Krakow, Poland, endorsed a proposal brought by the Palestinians, where twelve countries voted in favor, three opposed and six abstained.
“Just inscribed on @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List & World Heritage in Danger List: Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town,” the organization said on its official Twitter account.
The move seeks to draw international attention to the situation in Hebron, where sites holy to both Jews and Muslims are located. The focal point of the decision is a site revered by Muslims as al-Ibrahimi Mosque and by Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
The result triggered angry reactions by Israeli officials, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned it as “another delusional UNESCO decision.”
A statement released by Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu has decided to cut one million U.S. dollars from the membership funds that Israel pays to the UN, and it will use the money to establish a museum for the history of the settlers in Hebron and the adjacent settlement of Kiryat Arba, as well as “additional heritage projects related to Hebron.”
It would be Israel’s first museum dedicated to the settlement history.
The museum would aim to “present to the entire world the historic truth and the Jewish people’s deep connection, of thousands of years, to Hebron,” the statement read.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman blasted UNESCO as “a politically biased, shameful and anti-Semitic organization whose decisions are scandalous.”
Writing on his Tweeter feed, Lieberman also said he hopes that “with the help of our great friend the United States, the organization’s budget will be cut off.”
The Palestinians applauded the resolution. Rula Ma’ay’ah, Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, called the listing a “historic achievement, which affirms the Palestinian identity of Hebron and Al-Ibrahimi mosque, that belong to the heritage of the Palestinian people.”
This shall “put al-Ibrahimi mosque and its surrounding under protection from the consequences of Israeli aggression and continued Judaization processes,” said Ma’ay’ah.
Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Malki said in an emailed statement that it serves to refute Israeli lies about the history of Hebron city, calling it a “diplomatic victory.”
The site, listed under Palestine, the fourth site to be registered under the State of Palestine since UNESCO recognized it as a member state in 2011.
Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Jewish settlers who live there in a heavily guarded enclave.
Israel seized Hebron, together with the rest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, during the 1967 Middle East war, and has controlled these territories ever since despite international criticism.